Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Induction Ceremony

Time for Jeff’s Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Recap.  First, to reset, this is the 7thInduction Kathy and I have attended.  It is our 3rd in Cleveland (2012,2015,2018) in addition to 1 in LA (2013) and 3 in Brooklyn (2014,2016,2017). We have now seen a total of 61 bands/performers/people inducted into the Hall.

For the first time, Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock Hall gave the opening remarks.  A job usually done by Jann Weiner and sees him loudly booed.  Greg gave more of an update on the museum and foundation than a preview of the night.
Unfortunately, for the third year in a row the night had to begin with a tribute to an artist lost in the past year.  2016 was David Bowie, 2017 was Chuck Berry and this year was a surprise appearance of the Killers performing American Girl/Free Falling for Tom Petty.  As a fan of the Killers I was excited and the band didn’t disappoint.  It was a fun, upbeat version with a bit of Free Falling added at the end.  It was definitely more of a celebration of Tom rather than some of the more somber tributes done at other shows.
The next surprise of the night was Howard Stern taking the podium to induct Bon Jovi.  A surprise because most of the crowd was there for Bon Jovi and they were by far the most “rock” band of the night.  Usually, the biggest band goes on toward the end of the show, building excitement, but tonight they were first.  Howard was Howard, which is both good and bad.  Good because he was funny, if you like Howard you got the full shtick of penis and jizz jokes. Bad because that’s not what I like to see in a Hall induction.  In my opinion, non-musicians rarely give good speeches with the possible exception of David Letterman in 2017.  I’ve said many times the best speeches are the ones from the heart, the ones that show just how much the inductee meant to the presenter. We didn’t get that with Howard.  Yes, he talked about his friendship with the guys, but we got no insight into the band, nothing on the impact these men made on Howard, just jokes, Wikipedia stats and a sing along, of and of course the much warranted jabs at Jann Weiner for keeping Bon Jovi out for so long.
What Howard’s speech lacked was made up by the band itself.  The acceptance speeches were very good.  Alec was first and looked good after being out of the public for so long.  Hugh was next and kept things short and sweet.  He was followed by Richie who received a huge applause.  He looked good and you could tell what the moment meant to him.  He rambled a little but it was from the heart.  He also had no prepared remarks, just saying what he felt.  Tico and David were both very good with David giving us a bit of his and the band’s history.  Naturally, Jon was last.  His speech did go very long, about 18 minutes, but if you are a fan you were treated with a history of the band from Jon’s teenage years up to now.  He didn’t sugarcoat the rough times and thanked the current lineup and gave a shout out to Snake Sabo. When Jon finished, they did what they do best, play! It was a combo of the six inductees, Phil X, John Shenks and Everett Bradley with Alec playing both bass and guitar depending on the song.  They tore through You Give Love a Bad Name, It’s My Life, When We Were Us (yes, Jon felt it necessary to play the new single. Few in the room knew the song), and Living on a Prayer.  The crowd loved it, everyone up singing and the band sounded great.  Jon can’t hit the high notes anymore, but the crowd was happy to help.  The best part was seeing how much Richie and Jon enjoyed playing together, hopefully we’ll see more of that someday.
One of the big mysteries of the night was next, what would happen with Dire Straits? It started normal, the traditional video montage of the band’s history, but when it ended, no one was at the podium to induct them.  The three members in attendance, John Illsley, Alan Clark and Guy Fletcher came up to the stage.  John said that since no one is there to induct them, he will do it.  He began to read a brief history of the band that served as the Induction speech.  Guy came up for his speech but was so soft-spoken you couldn’t hear a thing. Alan was next followed by John again, but this time accepting his own induction.  There was no Mark or David Knopfler and no Pick Withers.  John said it is a personal thing with Mark but they are still friends.  When he finished the three just walked off, no tribute performance.  This all kind of sucked the wind out of the room after the triumphant Bon Jovi reunion.  You couldn’t help but feel sad that the members who did come had no one there to celebrate them and that the history of this amazing band came to end with a quiet whimper rather than one, last great performance. We learned later that the Hall was set to have Keith Urban induct the band but he backed out when he heard Mark Knopfler wasn’t attending, feeling that if it isn’t important enough to the band to show up then he isn’t coming either.  John Mayer was also approached and felt the same.
With some of the buzz now taken out of the room, a video tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe began. The video was narrated by Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and served both as a history/introduction to Rosetta as well as her actual induction.  After the video Brittany and her guitar were onstage fronting a band consisting of the Roots with Paul Schaffer.  Even if you’re not a big Alabama Shakes fan, there is no denying that she can sing and is a really good guitar player.  She tore through That’s All before stepping aside and letting Felicia Collins of the David Letterman band take center stage to perform Strange Things Happen Every Day.  Although we weren’t familiar with Rosetta Tharpe at all you couldn’t help but enjoy these two great performances which helped get some of the energy back into the room.
/The video tribute to The Cars came on next, followed by the return of Brandon Flowers of the Killers to induct them.  He gave a great speech that was funny and showed that he is actually a big fan of the band.  Elliot Easton was the first to speak and gave a good history of the band.  A recurring theme in all of the band members’ speeches was how much they missed Ben Orr and what it would have meant to him to receive this honor in his hometown.  Greg Hawkes was next and told a great story about his father offering him Beatles tickets with the catch that he would have to take a year of piano lessons.  David Robinson’s speech was fairly brief and then Ric Ocasak came up.  He filled in a little of the bands history concerning how he and Ben met in Cleveland.  He has a very dry, witty personality and it came through in his speech.  This was a band that really appreciated the honor and you can tell how touched they were by it and how much they miss their bandmate.  When they took the stage to play, they were accompanied by Scott Shriner of Weezer on bass.  Ric produced a few Weezer records so this addition made sense and Scott showed his respect by staying more in the back and letting the band shine.  The first two songs, My Best Friend’s Girl and You Might Think, were a little rocky.  You could tell the band had some butterflies after not playing for years.  By song three, Moving In Stereo, they clicked into gear.  Everyone sitting at the tables in back were up dancing at this point and the vibe kept up for a great version of Just What I Needed.
Just as the energy was beginning to make its way back into the room, the screen showed a clip of Green Day’s performance of Basket Case from the 2015 Induction.  While Green Day gave one of the best Hall performances we ever saw that night, watching a video of it for no apparent reason sort of brought the energy level down a notch.  The video led into the In Memorium section.  At some Inductions they had a live performance during the video, for this one they played some of the songs as the pictures came up.  On a personal note, Kathy and I were just crushed not to see our friend, and bass player of Trans Siberian Orchestra and Adrenaline Mob, David Z shown during the montage.
As the video wound down another surprise came, Ann Wilson and Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains took the stage to perform a tribute to their friend Chris Cornell.  It was a sparse (just Jerry’s guitar and Ann’s vocal) but powerful rendition of Black Hole Sun with no extra lights or video. As the performance ended, a picture of Chris was on the screen, leading to the annoying woman behind us asking “who’s that?”.
The heaviness of that moment led to the lighter note of Steven Van Zandt taking the stage to announce a new category, Hall of Fame Singles.  These are classic singles from bands not in the Hall, a great idea. He inducted Rocket 88 from Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm, Rumble from Link Wray, Chubby Checker’s The Twist, Louie Louie from the Kingsmen, Procal Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale and Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild.  There were no performances, but it would have been great to have an all-star band perform a medley of these classic songs rather than the Green Day clip.
After the video intro, Mary J. Blige came on to induct Nina Simone.  She said her speech would be long, but overall it was an average length, she did get a little political in her speech but that was Nina Simone.  Nina’s brother Sam was there to accept the award, and that’s when the wheels fell off.  He started out funny, saying the Hall told him 3 minutes but he’ll stay on as long as he wants and chastising Jon Bon Jovi for going long.  Then he just began to ramble, telling incoherent stories that were more about him than his sister.  As time went on he kept saying he wasn’t done yet and he would keep talking.  Finally, after 10 or 12 minutes, Mary J. came up, grabbed him by the arm and walked him off.  We found out later that the teleprompter keep displaying Please Wrap Up in bigger and bigger letters until he was walked off.  Andra Day came out to perform along with the Roots/Paul Shaffer.  I’ve never heard of her but she can sing! She did two songs, I Wish I Knew How it would Feel To be Free and a fiery version of I Put A Spell on You.  When she finished, Lauren Hill took the stage.  Usually, a deceased artist gets one or two songs, but Lauren Hill was in it for the long haul.  While she is an enigma so it was cool to see her, you can tell she was uncomfortable. She seemed to have issues with her ear monitors, mic and almost everything else.  While her voice was incredible, the songs went on for far too long.  Plus, I’m pretty sure Nina Simone didn’t have a rap in any of her songs.  She performed Ne Me Quitte Pas, Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair and Feeling Good.  It turns out the producers didn’t know if Lauren Hill would show as she tends to be unreliable, that is why Nina Simone had two full tributes.
 
When Lauren Hill finally ended it was already after 11:00 but time to induct the Moody Blues.  Ann Wilson was back for a heartfelt speech.  It was obvious she is a fan and relished the chance to induct one of her favorite bands.  Across from our section, a fan unveiled a banner simply saying FINALLY. Original singer Denny Laine began the speeches in very brief style, after all, he only played on one record.  Graham Edge was next with a funny, appreciative speech.  Even when he said all he wanted to, for some reason they told him to stretch and go on a bit longer.  Very odd considering how late it was getting.  John Lodge was also fairly brief and talked about what this honor meant to him followed by Justin Hayward.  Justin mentioned how English bands don’t really understand the Hall and what it means, but now that he is there he gets it.  Hopefully someone will explain that to Mark Knopfler.  Mike Pinder was there but the lights went off before he could speak and he was escorted off the stage, ending hopes of a reunion performance.  The band started with I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock & Roll Band), it was little shaky but they found their footing with In Your Wildest Dreams.  Possibly the highlight of the night was next with Nights In White Satin.  A powerful, beautiful performance of the song.  A section of the crowd held up blue lights during the performance.   Their performance ended with Ride My See Saw.
 
While it was now midnight, we still held out slim hope for a jam, but the lights came on they wished a crowd a good night.  We later learned that there was no jam scheduled as the bands weren’t interested.  While this wasn’t the best ceremony we’ve been to, it did have its great moments and finally seeing Bon Jovi get their due was certainly a great one for me.  We ended the night Saturday at the House of Blues for an after party featuring a DJ set from Questlove.
 

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